24 January 2008

Are Albums Accessories For Straight Guys?

This question is predicated upon a recent realization: women favor the enorm handbags of the past few years as status markers. The bigger your bag, the more fashionable you are. And we all know fashion is power, honey.

Hetero guys, sadly, are not able to avail themselves of bags as weapons of aggression in the quest for social prestige. (Unless they're Pharrell.) So, they use records instead.

Aren't albums more or less straight guys' lifestyle accessories? Don't they clutch at and attempt to align themselves with the makers' image or in-group status just about as frantically as style-conscious women with their bags--wielding the prestige of cool-band-of-the-moment's music the way women deploy fashion??

Ok. But so, what? Though more and more women move to adopt the discourse of music as meaning-giving, we really aren't seeing the similar embrace of fashion by men--our metrosexual friends notwithstanding. I think this is because certain fields are viewed as girl ghettoes--dance, decorative (!) arts, textiles, interior design, anyone?--and fashion is one of them. They just don't rate the way field of inquiry and practice like film, the fine (?) arts, architecture or music do.

And fashion is not buttressed and validated by what I--as a veteran of mass comm/comm studies seminars--call the mythic story of life-saving power. How many texts did I read that did not include some variation of the (male) writer proclaiming: "Music is soooo important to me! Music is my life, man!! Rock 'n' roll/punk/hip-hop saved my life, man!!" Marc Jacobs just isn't out there sobbing to anyone who will listen that resortwear was a revelation.

There is something bitchy and coercive about fashion. Though...it's not like music scenes can't be as codified and sadistically gleeful in their policing and enforcement.

I don't know: maybe the denigration of fashion--which is, at its best, adorning the body as an artistic endeavor--has to do with the with the association of the female with the body and its lower estate vis-a-vis the mind. Maybe that explains why crafts--all about hands, my dears--are considered skanky and arts sublime.

22 January 2008

Is Poetry Dead Stylish?


I'm going to argue in favor of There's-a-pretty-good-chance. How chic is martini-damp Anne Sexton--poor dear--in this photo? I never got quite as into her as I did Sylvia Plath. (Ted Hughes appeared in one of my dreams when I was 19. He asked me to call him dad. But that's all that happened. I swear.)

How can you not be ravished by the sweep and scale of Assia Wevill's--god, poor dear!--life? You know who she is--the hussy Ted Hughes went off with (herself married to a poet)...who, in turn, killed herself (and her daughter with Hughes) the same way Sylvia Plath did. To say Wevill had a very interesting life is quite the understatement. Her family fled Nazi Germany for British-ruled Palestine, and she spent the war years (her teenage years) in Tel Aviv. Successive marriages got her to UK, Canada and UK again. Wevill was a beautiful, intriguing woman, but also very talented--working as an advertising copywriter and producer, and helping Hughes translate Yehuda Amichai's poetry from the original Hebrew (under her birth name Assia Gutmann.)

Even nowadays, poets like Jorie Graham up their glamor factor by being shot by Annie Leibovitz.

Though happiness hardly makes for electrifying poetry, nothing romanticizes the hard livin the muse puts you through like pill-popping poets and their lovely excesses.